Football: Palace `away' win fits unlikely streak

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The Independent Online
Wimbledon 0 Crystal Palace 1

An analysis of form over the last nine days could reach only one conclusion: Hull City are one of the giants of European football. In that short space of time the struggling Third Division side have beaten Crystal Palace, who have beaten Wimbledon, who have beaten Newcastle United, who have beaten Barcelona. Now we know why the bookmakers always win.

Just as surprising as the results themselves, however, is the fact that, by all accounts, each victory was deserved. There could certainly be little quarrel with the outcome on Saturday at Selhurst Park, where Palace always looked the more enterprising team in a typically tight local derby.

You would never have expected that to be the case. Wimbledon had built on their excellent win at Newcastle with a 5-1 midweek drubbing of Millwall in the Coca-Cola Cup, while Palace's defeat at Hull had followed a humiliating reverse at the hands of Chelsea.

Predicting Palace's results this season has been a particularly hazardous pursuit. Steve Coppell's team have lost all three of their home matches and when they did finally chalk up a Selhurst victory it was in this "away" fixture.

Victory was secured by Attilio Lombardo, who scored from close range after Neil Sullivan failed to gather the ball under pressure from Dougie Freedman, and there was further encouragement for Palace in the form of two of their other summer signings from overseas.

Hermann Hreidarsson, a 23-year-old Icelandic international signed for pounds 250,000 from IBV, made his first Premiership start in the middle of defence and impressed with his coolness and deceptive skills on the ball. With David Tuttle suffering a serious leg injury in the second half here, Hreidarsson is likely to have an extended run in the team.

Jamie Fullarton, also 23, joined Palace on a free "Bosman" transfer from the French club Bastia, where he spent a year after leaving St Mirren. An industrious and lively midfielder, the former Scotland Under-21 international showed good awareness and was always looking to create openings.

When they remembered to keep the ball on the ground, Palace played some attractive and incisive football and they always looked the more likely to score. Andy Linighan hit a post with a header, Hreidarsson just failed to bundle home a chance at the far post and Kevin Muscat and Paul Warhurst both had vociferous penalty claims turned down.

Wimbledon were curiously subdued. Outmanoeuvred in midfield, they were never able to give good enough service to Efan Ekoku and Carl Cort. When their only clear-cut chance came, in the 89th minute, Kevin Miller made an excellent save from Stewart Castledine's shot.

The early substitution of Marcus Gayle, who was taken to hospital after complaining of chest pains and a shortness of breath, limited Wimbledon's attacking options.

Goal: Lombardo (79) 0-1.

Wimbledon (4-4-2): Sullivan; Cunningham, Perry, Blackwell, Kimble; Castledine, Jones, Hughes, Gayle (Thatcher, 37); Ekoku (Clarke, 72), Cort (Holdsworth, 72). Substitutes not used: Earle, Heald (gk).

Crystal Palace (5-3-2); Miller; Muscat, Linighan, Tuttle (Edworthy, 61), Hreidarsson, Gordon; Lombardo, Roberts, Fullarton; Dyer (Freedman, 59), Warhurst (Shipperley, 85). Substitutes not used: Zohar, Nash (gk).

Bookings: Wimbledon: Perry, Kimble, Hughes. Palace: Fullarton.

Referee: P E Alcock (Redhill).

Man of the match: Fullarton.

Attendance: 16,747.